Fe geiswyd llifo'r gadwyn dew â llif
A gwthio yr allweddi ymhob clo.
Ataliwyd hwynt yn llwyr er maint eu rhif
Gan ysbryd dewr di-ildio plant y fro.

W.M.Rees

Remember 1963

Thank you to ....

Contents

Remember Llangyndeyrn5

The Story at a Glance6

Two Leaders8

Reverend W. M Rees9

Councillor William Thomas13

Recollections Arwyn Richards19

Recollections Harry Lloyd31

Recollections Basil Phillips38

Recollections Meurig Voyle44

The Women Remembering54

Reasons for Celebration83

Councillor Tyssul Evans93

A Reporter's Recollections Sulwyn Thomas101

Remember Llangyndeyrn: Cofiwch Llangyndeyrn

In 1963 Llangyndeyrn became the focus of national attention as a result of a spirited, organised and successful campaign against Swansea Corporation plans to build a dam to create a reservoir in Cwm Gwendraeth Fach. Fifty years on the campaign is a source of great inspiration and pride to those who lived through those momentous events and also to new generations. In 2012 a committee was formed with a view to celebrating the victory during its 50th anniversary in 2013.

Although there has been a degree of change to its linguistic profile since 1963, Llangyndeyrn remains a vibrant Welsh-speaking community and the 'Pwyllgor Dathlu' (Celebrations Committee) held all its meetings and kept all its minutes in Welsh. For the benefit of those who cannot read Welsh it decided to commission an English translation of the history of the campaign which was first published in 1983. This free web publication can be viewed here: http://www.llangyndeyrn.org/en/50-years-celebration/lock-the-gates/


The committee also decided to publish this new volume of recollections and responses through the medium of English.

 

 

 

Mewn Undod Mae Nerth

The Story at a Glance


From 1960 until 1964 the residents of Cwm Gwendraeth Fach fought a brave and tireless battle against Swansea Corporation's plans to build a dam at Llangyndeyrn to create a reservoir. 

Important Dates

March 26, 1960:
The Defence Committee is formed at a public meeting at Llangyndeyrn village hall.
Cllr. William Thomas elected Chairman and Rev. W. M. Rees as Secretary.

March 21, 1963:
The Defence Committee reconvenes after a report in the Western Mail.

April 2, 1963:
Public Meeting at Llangyndeyrn village hall.

April 9, 1963:
A Swansea representative, Mr Alwyn Jones, is prevented from entering the fields of Allt-y-cadno without permission.

May 24, 1963:
Public Meeting at Pontiets.

 

 

 

June 26, 1963:
Local Inquiry and march at Llangyndeyrn.

September 20, 1963:
Mr Richard Lillicrap of Swansea Corporation is refused permission to enter the lands.

October 11, 1963:
The people of Llangyndeyrn march in Carmarthen. JPs at Carmarthen permit Swansea to enter the lands.

October 21, 1963:
'The Great Battle' – the confrontation at Glanyrynys' gates.

February 4, 1964:
Llangyndeyrn Defence Committee meet up with Swansea Corporation representatives at Llangyndeyrn village hall.

August 14, 1965:
Thanksgiving Service held on the Square at Llangyndeyrn to celebrate the victory.

 

Two Leaders

Everyone is agreed that one of the greatest strengths of the campaign was the outstanding leadership given by the Reverend W. M. Rees and Councillor William Thomas. To fully appreciate the strong characters of these two stalwart men, an insight into their background has been given by members of their families.

Y Pwyllgor

 

Reverend W. M. REES

Early life

William Mervyn Rees was born in Aberdare. He grew up a religious home, one of six children, but his childhood was difficult due to the effects of hardship and poverty. After leaving school he followed his father to the mine, as was usual for boys in those days. His first experience of working life at the Bwllfa colliery was to work underground for ten hours – as a thirteen year old child.

The First World War

When the First World war broke out in 1914, William, like thousands of other young men, was called up to the army. However this young man was a convinced pacifist, and furthermore he had set his heart on going to the Ministry. He refused the summons, and subsequently had to appear before a tribunal. Standing in front of five members of the military personnel, he gave his evidence in Welsh. The response of one of his interrogators was to ask, in a sarcastic manner, hadn't he ever been to school (in order to learn English)? He was, however, released.

Baptist college and call to the ministry

After this he attended school at Pontypridd. The education he received there prepared him to apply for a place at the Baptist College in Bangor, and after completing his training in 1925 he accepted a call to the Tabernacl chapel at Pontyberem. He was a minister to his flock for 40 years, sharing the last nine years of his ministry with Bethel chapel, Llangyndeyrn. As the chapel owned a manse in that village, the family was invited to take up residence at Bro Dawel.

District Councillor

Soon after his call to Pontyberem in 1925, W. M. Rees stood for the local elections and was elected a member of Llanelli District Council and also the Board of Guardians, where he served for 18 years. During that time, because of his heartfelt convictions on a number of issues, he was in conflict with a number of officials as well as authorities. The attitude at the time was that poverty was a crime, but William Rees knew differently.

During his presidency of the Council he urged members to speak their native Welsh at the meetings; this was the first time they had the opportunity to do so. He became engaged in a number of furious debates on the Council, one of them regarding the disclosure of the wretchedly low health standards at the Llanelli workhouse, and another regarding the lack of nutritious food dished out at an orphanage at Felin-foel.

He also drew the attention of the Minister of Health in London to the appalling sewerage situation at Pontyberem.

Pacifism

He was a fervent pacifist throughout his life, joining the Peace Pledge Union and establishing the Llanelli branch of the union. He spoke at several public meetings to oppose conscription. He influenced some Gwendraeth Valley men to be conscientious objectors, and successfully pleaded their cases at tribunals. 

Nationalism, Baptist Union and Interests

He was a convinced nationalist since the early days of Plaid Cymru, and he despised the subservience of some of the Welsh MPs at Westminster.

He served his denomination conscientiously and felt honoured when he was elected to chair the Baptist Union of Wales. He was secretary of the Temperance and Public Affairs Committee for years, and co-edited Y Seren Fach, the denomination's publication.

He enjoyed writing literature, and won several eisteddfod chairs, as well as a writing competition for young actors at the Welsh National Eisteddfod.

The 'Battle of Llangyndeyrn'


After participating on the Llangyndeyrn Defence Committee which successfully campaigned against the West Glamorgan authorities' plans to build a reservoir in Cwm Gwendraeth Fach, he retired from the ministry in 1965 and moved back to live in his native Aberdare. He died in 1977.

Based on notes provided by Hywel Rees (son of W. M. Rees)

W M Rees

Councillor William Thomas

William Thomas the farmer

William Thomas was born on 6 January 1896 on a farm, Coedmoelion, at Pontyberem. In 1905 his family moved to Allt-y-cadno in Llangyndeyrn where he, his two sisters and two brothers, were brought up. From there he attended the local primary school at Llangyndeyrn before going on to receive his secondary education at the Carmarthen Grammar School for Boys.

After his father's death in 1921, aged 63, William took on the farm in partnership with his mother. Before the advent of the tractor, the draught horse took the brunt of all the heavy work on farms. His granddaughter Diana has a very clear memory of her grandfather, and his love of these horses: 'Lofty', 'Pepper', 'Diamond' and 'Star'. He was one of the first farmers in the area to buy a car, the 'Overland', while he was still farming at Allt-y-cadno.

When he was 27 years old William married Mary-Ann Jones of Cefn Golau, Pedair Heol, in October 1923. They had three children: Glenys, Tomi, and Dewi. William and Mari-Ann (as she was called) farmed at Allt-y-cadno until they bought Glanyrynys, Llangyndeyrn, in 1942. William and Mari-Ann farmed Glanyrynys until their retirement in 1959 and moved to live in 'y Banc', Llangyndeyrn. But in April 1960 William Thomas and the whole family suffered a great loss with the death of Mari-Ann

William Thomas the Councillor

William Thomas was elected as Rural District Councillor for Llangyndeyrn parish in 1928, serving as one of the youngest councillors at that time. His father, Thomas Thomas, had also served as a Rural District Councillor until his death in 1921. It is clear that William had been inspired by his father in this respect.

William Thomas served on the council for 40 years, from April 1928 until his death in April 1973. This was a period that saw dramatic changes and developments in our world. Some of these changes that William Thomas saw during his long term as a member of Carmarthen Rural District Council (R.D.C.) were:

The  administration and eventual dissolution of the Board of Guardians of Carmarthen Workhouse.

During the year 1938-1939 Cllr William Thomas served as Chairman of Carmarthen R.D.C., and also as JP. As war loomed he was involved in the council's preparations to follow the government's instructions to receive evacuees if war broke out, along with preparations for air raids and the distribution of gas masks.

During William Thomas' term as Chairman of the R.D.C, planning went ahead for building new council offices at No. 4 Spilman Street, Carmarthen. Previously the council used to convene on Saturdays in St. Peter's Church House.

The R.D.C., during the 45 years William Thomas served as councillor, engaged enthusiastically with their responsibility to provide better living conditions for the population of Carmarthenshire, such as ensuring clean water supplies and sewage facilities. They also provided new homes in the county, and as one who had a key role in the discussions and planning that led to the opening of these new homes, it was Cllr. William Thomas who transferred the key of the 500th house to be built since the War to Mr. Rhys Hopkin Morris, MP, in a small ceremony at Pontyberem. By 1967 the council was landlord to 1,300 houses, built at a cost of 2 million pounds.

As the R.D.C.'s responsibilities increased, so did William Thomas' responsibilities as a member. Back in 1928 he had served on 50% of the main committees of two committees out of a total of four. 39 years later, in 1967, William Thomas continued to serve on about 50% of the major committees, but their number had increased by then to 22, and he was also Chairman on several of these. In October 1966, because of his status as 'Father' of the Council, the R.D.C. invited him to plant a tree at another ceremony the new Council Housing Estate at Tregynnwr in Carmarthen, as a symbol of his long career in public life in Carmarthenshire. And then in May 1968 he officially opened Tregynnwr Council Housing Estate. William Thomas was a councillor at a time of great progress in the history of Carmarthen R.D.C., when it was able to provide better living conditions, and therefore a new dignity, to thousands of people in the county.

The Battle of Llangyndeyrn

The news came in early 1960. The Swansea Corporation were looking to provide more water for the needs of the town, and turned their sights towards Cwm Gwendraeth Fach, and Llangyndeyrn specifically. When the residents realized the nature of the threat to Llangyndeyrn, to their village, the livelihood of the farmers and to their whole way of life, there were two men among them who were in an advantageous position to offer leadership and guidance. One was minister of Bethel, the Rev. W. M. Rees, and the other was Cllr. William Thomas. Both had long experience of public affairs, including years on councils. William Thomas was chosen unanimously as Chairman of the Defence Committee, and W. M. Rees as Secretary. Over the next three years both played a key role in the fight to prevent the 80 foot high dam from being built in the village, 'David' against 'Goliath', in what was achieved in a manner that was dignified, effective, moderate, and unified.

From the outset the sharp intellect and insight of William Thomas found the way forward. He realized that if Swansea's surveyors gained access to farm fields at Llangyndeyrn, then the future looked very bleak to Cwm Gwendraeth Fach. It was vital they were not given access to land in the village, and under his leadership the villagers became determined to stop them from entering.

More importantly, William Thomas realized that the unsuitability of the valley as a location for a dam must be stressed, so a search for a better site was imperative, in order to undermine Swansea's arguments. He used his connections and his abilities to persuade the Council to pay for a company of engineers to inspect the area of Rhandirmwyn at the northern end of the Tywi valley. He knew Megan Lloyd George, M.P. for Carmarthenshire, and she accompanied him in the Landrover to inspect the site at Rhandirmwyn. This, of course, was the site that was eventually chosen as the location for the dam.

William Thomas was also aware that he required another string to his bow if Llangyndeyrn were to be saved. Securing public sympathy was crucial, and in the age of mass media it was possible to spread the message effectively and quickly. Key to gaining widespread support for the cause was, firstly, the protest march that was led through the streets of Carmarthen by William Thomas and Rev. W. M. Rees, with the villagers carrying banners bearing impassioned pleas not to drown Cwm Gwendraeth Fach. Secondly there was television, and as a result of his appearances on the small screen to further his cause, William Thomas' cigar became almost as well known as that of Winston Churchill. And finally, the press, which Cllr. William Thomas and the Rev. W. M. Rees made full use of. In a letter to the press William Thomas criticized Swansea Corporation for its 'steam-roller tactics' and its stubbornness in refusing to consider 'the feasible alternatives'.

And in the Western Mail of 22 October 1963, the day after the 'Great Battle' at the gates of his farm, Glanyrynys, he wrote: 'We do not regard this as a victory or a defeat. The people of the village are just fighting for their homes and livelihood. There are alternative schemes where there would be little upheaval.'

The efforts of Swansea Corporation faced a brick wall in the Llangyndeyrn villagers, with the leadership of William Thomas acting as a kind of cement binding them together. In the end, after years of nerve-racking worry, Llangyndeyrn emerged victorious. The contribution of William Thomas to the community is significant, not only through his long service as a councillor, but as one who did so much to prevent the valley from being drowned.

William Thomas died aged 77 on 16 April 1973 at Garth, Llangyndeyrn, home of his daughter, Glenys Leah Thomas.

Based on notes by Diana Thomas-Laidlaw, granddaughter of William Thomas, who wishes to thank her uncle, Mr T. G. Thomas, for his valuable information about his father.

Recollections

Arwyn Richards, Y Llandre, Farmer.

The Report in the Western Mail

We found out about the threat [Swansea Corporation's plan to drown Cwm Gwendraeth Fach and build a dam at Llangyndeyrn] by reading a report in the Western Mail. I was most displeased about this, as was everyone else. It was so discourteous of them [Swansea Corporation]. We all felt agitated, and worried about what it meant.

Absolute Unity

There was one factor which made the situation much easier, and that was the 100% unity amongst the people of Llangyndeyrn. Nobody whom I knew was in favour of Swansea's plans, because everyone realised what the consequences would be – they would be taking our homes, some of us – and our livelihoods. We also came to realise that the location of the planned reservoir would be completely unsuitable.

Three years of worry
During the lull between 1960 and 1963, it was natural that we became worried about what lay ahead of us;8 why they [Swansea] didn't inform us of their plans, why we never heard a word from them – all this played on our nerves.

The Different Qualities of the Two Leaders

Our two leaders were quite different to one another. William Thomas hailed from the locality and was a highly respected councillor. As a member of Carmarthen Rural District Council (R.D.C.) he was not without influence. W. M. Rees came out fighting because he felt such a sense of injustice; as a minister he must have seen the battle as one between David and Goliath. We held both men in high esteem, and as in a war we were ready to follow their leadership.

The support of the R.D.C. was very important. William Thomas made it clear to Carmarthen R.D.C. that the plan [for the reservoir] was a very poor one, and from the minute we gained their support you had the situation where one council was pitched against the other, and that was another point in our favour, apart from the unified opposition to the plans. It was no longer a matter of just farmers, saying 'Don't take our land – go and find somewhere else' once we had the council's support. With Carmarthen R.D.C.'s support we had experts versus experts, and it was these experts, influenced by William Thomas, who found the location [for a dam] at Brianne. It played out just like a drama, and Swansea was supposed to have been searching for suitable locations.

Rejecting the warrant

They came round with warrant next, and Dewi [William Thomas' son, who farmed Glanyrynys] phoned us one morning saying 'They're coming round with the warrant now so that they can gain the rights to enter our fields, but whatever you do – don't accept it on any account!'. I must have been outdoors at the time but Morina was in the house. There came a knock at the door but no-one answered it. 'Jones Bach y Dŵr [Alwyn Jones, Swansea Corporation's surveyor]' knocked next, again no reply. And the next thing Morina saw was a letter being pushed underneath the door. Well, because Dewi had phoned to warn us she knew what it was, and as he was pushing it in she was pushing it back out!

Protecting Allt-y-cadno

John Francis was the agent of Allt-y-cadno [owned by Glanrhydw estate] and they saw no reason to oppose the survey of the land. Therefore we had to see Chaldecott, Glanrhydw's agent. Off we went, and called at the mart first, and told Mr Perkins [of John Francis estate agents] that nobody from Llangyndeyrn would be taking their cattle to be sold at the mart any more. Then we called with Colonel Chaldecott. When William Thomas began to state our case before him, and starting to let off steam, the colonel interrupted with 'Hold on, Mr Thomas!' and called the maid, to offer us a cup of tea – though none of us wanted any tea!

But there's a good ending to the story, as he eventually gave us the right to prevent the men of Swansea from entering Allt-y-cadno's fields. Allt-y-cadno was the only farm that was owned by an estate and therefore [as a tenant] Eirwyn couln't stop them by himself, but once Chaldecott had given his permission, he did stop them.

Preparing for the worst

We had seen what had happened in other places [the drowning of Tryweryn near Bala in 1963], and we were prepared for the worst. We were not going to allow Swansea to enter our lands under any circumstances, but what would happen if we found ourselves on the wrong side of the law? What if things turned violent? We realised that some of us might face imprisonment. One of the most memorable committees was the one in which it was decided who would be able to go to prison [rather than just pay a fine]. If somebody was the only able-bodied man on his farm, then it would be impractical for him to go to prison. But if there was somebody else on the farm to help out and carry on with the farming, then the farmer would have to face imprisonment. We had made our preparations as far ahead as that.

Support from surrounding localities

On the day of the great march [Carmarthen, 11 October 1963], everybody from Llangyndeyrn and the surrounding localities, who were able to go, went on the march. But I can't say that the people of Carmarthen were particularly supportive of us – they had seen so many other protests. Half of them didn't realise what it was all about, although we had placards with the words 'Save our Homes' on them. Our message was clear, but for them it was just another march.

On the other hand, the support that came from the surrounding localities was sound. It was important that we kept the campaign non-political. Perhaps people would think that the farmers might be Tories and that the coal miners [the neighbouring valley, Cwm Gwendraeth Fawr, was part of the south Wales coalfield] were Labour Party supporters, and that they [the miners] would not be in the least bit worried about our plight. But the miners saw everything from our point of view, and to prove it they filled the village hall at Meinciau [in nearby Cwm Gwendraeth Fawr] in our support. W. M. Rees had driven around the district with a loudhailer to announce the meeting and the hall filled up. I remember saying: 'Wales is said to be "The Land of Song". More likely it will be "The Land of Water"!' That struck a chord with the people in the audience. I remember a reporter coming up to me to take my name, and Dewi teasing me about it.

The Power of the Press and Television

The media and television coverage were very important. Fyfe Robertson came down from London to interview Bryn Jones [Baptist minister at Porthyrhyd, the village at the northern end of the proposed reservoir] – now that's what I call national coverage. I happened to be up at Hereford soon after, buying apples, and as I was making my payment this chap said, 'What's this, you don't come from that place they're trying to drown, are you?' – this from as far away as Hereford! It was national news.

The Whole Village Makes a Stand

I remember the day when we went up to the gate, when they tried to come in [the 'Great Confrontation': Swansea's engineers arriving to gain entry to Glanyrynys' fields to survey the land]. That was the most magnificent scene I ever saw in my life, it had an overwhelming effect on me, seeing the whole village walking up, pensioners scarcely able to walk and elderly people going up to support us no matter how it was with them, and you felt, if people such as these could act so sacrificially then we should be able to make more of a sacrifice [to prevent Swansea from entering our land].

The 'Great Confrontation'

I remember the morning of the 'Great Confrontation' as though it was yesterday. My brother-in-law had come up to support us, and over a cup of tea he said to me, 'You do realise what you are doing? The police are here; you could be arrested – you might not be here tomorrow to do the milking! Aren't you afraid of what might happen?' And I reassured him, telling him that I wasn't in the least bit afraid. But, you see, this was the thing – the minute I went out on to the [village] square, and saw one or two friends, any fears I had vanished, and as one saw more and more [supporters] arriving, well you were not in the least bit afraid after that. That's what's so dangerous about crowds – you get strength from one another.

Ring the bell!

We had a degree of trouble regarding the ringing of the bell [a plan devised to warn the people of Llangyndeyrn of an imminent 'attack' from Swansea]. The church bell was not supposed to be rung except in the event of an attack, and therefore no church bells were rung at all at times of war. We had to ask Alun Williams, who was prominent amongst us as vicar of the parish, to contact the Bishop, who wasn't too happy about it, but we did secure his permission. The comparison was obvious – the bell was to have been rung if the Germans attacked. Well, now the bell was to be rung if Swansea invaded our land!

Demonstrating the Shortcomings of Swansea Corporation's Plans

Surprisingly enough, the Public Inquiry of 26 June 1963 worked to our advantage. Swansea had hoped to hold this Inquiry at the vestry in Porthyrhyd, as they didn't want it to be held here at Llangyndeyrn. But Islwyn Thomas, secretary of Bethlehem Chapel at Porthyrhyd, was also a member of our Defence Committee, and he informed them that the vestry was pre-booked for another meeting, as was another venue he was involved with. So although they didn't want to hold the Inquiry here in Llangyndeyrn, they didn't have much choice. On the day of the Inquiry we had the schoolchildren marching through the village. The teacher had asked the education committee's permission to have the morning off school, but the request was denied. But no matter, there wasn't one child present at Llangyndeyrn school that morning, and they marched up through the village with Elwyn Jones leading them, and they sang outside the hall before going inside. That unnerved them, I think. And then they realised how badly they had prepared. The two farming unions were behind us, and the NFU had succeeded in obtaining the services of a barrister from London, who, having studied the case, now began to cross examine the representatives from Swansea Corporation. I can recall the scene right now, and the question being asked to one of them: 'Have you projected the amount of water that Swansea Corporation will require in the early 1970s?' This man then turned to his companion, who in turn started to shuffle through all his papers!

They had not even bothered to make their calculations regarding this, and you would think that it would be the first thing they would do. Their plan was badly worked out, and there was something else. There were four original plans – A, B,C and D. They favoured Plan D, because this was the one where they expected 'the least objection', and for this reason they favoured the plan for Llangyndeyrn!

Prison rather than yield your home

You have heard about 'fighting for king and country', well 'king and country' meant nothing to me, but if you would have to fight for your family and your home, then you would fight to the bitter end. I was exempted from facing imprisonment because I was the only man on the farm.

Llandre

Llangyndeyrn today

A celebration committee was recently held at the hall, which was comfortably full of mostly young people. Well, these people would not be living here at Llangyndeyrn today if the dam had been built. Originally the dam was to have been built to a height of 60 feet, that is the height of the church belltower. They then lowered the height to 40 feet, in order to save Porthyrhyd [from being drowned under the reservoir at its northernmost end]. But then, who would wish to live in the village in the shadow of such a wall, because it wouldn't be something new for a dam to burst.
Arwyn Llandre
There are two things to remind me of how glad I am that we fought: firstly, hearing the children playing in the school yard, who I can hear from the farm; and secondly hearing the church bell ring on a Sunday. That seems to remind us continually of our victory.

 

Lessons from history

Not one corporation has attempted, since then, to try and build a reservoir on low land. A lesson has, I am sure, been learned here. It was not as easy as they [Swansea] thought, but they were very much surprised to face such unity. Another matter where we were more fortunate than [they were at] Tryweryn, was that most of the land that was to be drowned here was owned by the farmers; they owned the actual land. At Tryweryn the land was not of such good quality in any case, and secondly some landowner or corporation who owned it would be able to sell it without any scruple.

Another point is that we kept politics out of it. I remember the meeting where Gwynfor Evans [leader of Plaid Cymru] offered the help of Plaid Cymru. We were being offered help from all directions. But he was turned down; the battle was to be completely non-political. Having said that, Lady Megan Lloyd George [the local M.P.] weighed down on our side, and she was not without her influence.

Teaching the history to the next generation

It's a shame that nobody has published the story in a book for the children. All they remember about the story is what their mothers have told them. And that would be an old story in any case, because it's their grandfathers who know most about it!

Laughter despite the worry

Despite all the worry there were many hilarious stories to be had, one being the clandestine visit to Cil-y-cwm. In the upper reaches of the Tywi valley, in the locality of Cil-y-cwm, people started to fear that they [Swansea Corporation] would turn their sights towards their part of the world. Dewi Thomas had heard that a meeting was to be held up there, so he said 'Let's go up to find out what's going on at Cil-y-cwm!' So up we went, not in disguise or anything. And what a surprise we had – Dewi was bent double with laughter (I had been involved in many of the activities of the Young Farmers and knew many from Cil-y-cwm) – because as soon as we went in this chap came up to me and said 'You are a long way from home – what are you doing here?' And I replied with 'I thought this was a whist drive!'

Recollections

Harry Lloyd (County Secretary for the National Farmers Union from April 1962)

Became part of the campaign soon after commencing in his post as the County Officer for the NFU

Original Committee Members
It was part of my work, I very soon became aware that there was a movement to protect Llangyndeyrn and that the Union was fully supportive of the people of Llangyndeyrn to oppose the scheme. Therefore it was part of my duty and work to do all that was required to prevent the valley from being taken over by Swansea Corporation, rather than being a conscientious decision, although my heart was fully behind the people of Llangyndeyrn.

Full unity within the Union

Among the members of our Union, I felt that the people I dealt with in committees etc. were fully supportive of the people of Llangyndeyrn and gave them every assistance that was necessary.

Collaboration between the two unions – the NFU and FUW (Harry Lloyd with the NFU – Emlyn Thomas with the FUW)

There weren't any disputes at all, we worked well with each other.

Swansea Corporation's determination to drown Llangyndeyrn

This unity was critical, I do not believe that the battle would have been won were it not for this unity as I felt at the time that Swansea Corporation were extremely determined to proceed with their scheme. From the meetings I attended and also in some of the letters which came from Swansea Corporation officials, and also from speaking with them, I could see that they had decided that they would drown Llangyndeyrn at whatever cost.

William Thomas and W. M. Rees – what made them such effective leaders?

I would say that they had determination and also conviction – both were convinced that the valley had to be protected at whatever cost, this was the incentive for them to continue with the fight. Also the people had confidence in these two as the leaders of the campaign, which gave them the support of the entire region.

Carmarthen Rural Council – the importance of their support 

This is always important, as at the end of the day one must have the local council's approval. To have their support is a huge asset; after all the council represents a wide area and includes key individuals from all parts of the county, therefore it is crucial that they support any movement which is underway either to fight for something or to oppose something. 

The importance of avoiding any violence

This I believe is obvious, we have seen examples of this in the past where things have turned violent; someone is injured and maybe killed, this immediately turns people against the campaign being fought. This happened during the miners' battle when a boy was killed when someone threw a brick, this caused great harm to the cause being fought by the miners.

 

The Procession in Carmarthen on 11th October 1963

I was not present for the whole time, probably because I was on duty in the office, but I attended part of the procession and I felt that the ordinary folk of Carmarthen were fully supportive of the people of Llangyndeyrn.

Widespread support for the battle

We had our meetings and we also had informal meetings when people gathered on the village square and I would have opportunities to talk to various members of the community, and it was clear that everyone, from the oldest to the youngest, were one hundred per cent behind the fight. I don't think that I met anyone in Llangyndeyrn who said that they disagreed with the battle to save the valley.

Carmarthen 1963

Press and Television Coverage

This was crucial; in any campaign held today one must have the support of the press and media. There are so many things being thrown at people in their own homes through the press, television and radio etc., and if you are not involved in this process then you have already lost the battle because people are only aware of what they see on screen or in newspapers. It was actually far more important at the time than it would be today as there are other mediums of communication today such as Facebook. I'm familiar with Sulwyn [Thomas] and one or two other people involved in the press at the time and they all refer to the experience they had while the campaign was being fought in Llangyndeyrn. Another person that did a lot of work behind the scenes was Clem Thomas, he was editor of the Carmarthen Times at that time when that paper was almost as important as the Carmarthen  Journal. Also prominent with the paper was Helen Thomas, or Helen Vaughan as she was then, she was a fantastic reporter who wrote many of these reports for the Carmarthen Times.

Staying firm under all circumstances

I was not aware of any swaying in any context.

The all-important support of the Agricultural Unions and Carmarthen Rural Council

In my opinion we wouldn't have won if not for the full support of these unions and councils, they were extremely important.

Fighting for their livelihood

The livelihood of so many of these farmers was in danger, and this was a key factor as the prospect of seeing the work accomplished by your father, grandfather and relatives going under water was the highest incentive you could have to stop this scheme.

Unity and Leadership

This brings home the old lesson that strength is to be found in unity (Mewn Undod Mae Nerth), if you want to win a battle or accomplish any social matter you must have the support of all members of the community and it is impossible to win without having this support. Here you also had two very good leaders, and also all of the farmers and residents of Llangyndeyrn were determined that Llangyndeyrn would not be drowned, all members of the community were united in this.

Swansea Corporation's poor preparation
 

Mr Montague Keen was the parliamentary secretary of the NFU in London at the time, and he was the link between the union and what was happening in the government's Houses of Parliament. He was well aware of the events that occurred behind closed doors and how legislation came into force, and we invited him to represent the farmers in the inquiry that was to be held by the government into this measure. I was surprised how ill-prepared Swansea Corporation were, they had a serious lack of information and arguments for proceeding with the scheme.  I believe that they thought that they only faced a couple of farmers in Llangyndeyrn and they needn't worry too much about them, that they only had to attend the inquiry and that everything would go in their favour. One of their officers had legal qualifications and he did not know his facts, I was surprised how ill-prepared they were with their case.

Swansea Cooperation

Basil Phillips, Capel Ifan

Beginning of fears

First of all I saw these people on the Gwendaeth Fach riverbank with a large white sheet in front of them and as soon as I ate my lunch I went out, but by then they had disappeared. The day afterwards my neighbour Williams Evans came to tell me that he had heard of the threat related to the water and that he wanted to know what was going on.

Basil

 

The fertile ground of Cwm Gwendraeth Fach

Well I thought about the Gwendraeth Fach and the land down there, it was good land and the young animals' condition would improve rapidly without you having to spend on them, and I was very disappointed that this was going to happen. After the drama when they attempted to come into Glanyrynys in Llangyndeyrn the sub-surveyor came in see us and he asked me 'Where do you stand on this issue?' I told him 'I'm opposed to it because I have been farming here, I have a son who is farming and he wants to be here farming after me, that's where I stand'. I also told him that I thought that they had gone about it the wrong way and he agreed with me.

Farmers in unison

What surprised me was to see how the farmers and residents of Llangyndeyrn came together and worked in unity and it eventually lead to success.

One scheme would have brought the water up to Capel Ifan and it wouldn't be worth living there as the water would have cooled the entire place, and another scheme involved drowning Porthyrhyd, and Cwmisfael would be gone too. But selling the farm and receiving compensation never crossed my mind at all, all I wanted to do was to prevent them and stop it all.

 

Leaders of the highest calibre

The two leaders were so different  - William Thomas had a farm to lose while WM Rees as a church minister was good from a spiritual aspect, they were leaders of the highest calibre.

Support of Carmarthen Rural Council

This was undoubtedly of help to us, the more who joined us the better and the publicity was also important.

The importance of fighting a non-violent campaign

I believe that the Swansea people would have been glad if some violence occurred, as it would have strengthened their own side.

The great procession in Carmarthen

The people of the town looked at us in surprise, they could see that something was going on, and they didn't take much notice of us, it was all rather quiet as far as I remember.
We met in Guildhall Square, and with William Thomas leading, Eira did not come with me as she was home on the farm.

If Eira wasn't home on the farm I would have been unable to attend meetings, and to tell the truth she was disappointed that she was not able to come with me, as her father and mother had been farming in Capel Ifan before her and she didn't want to see the farm and everything going under water. The farmers' wives did a great effort.

The importance of the Media and Television in taking hold of the nation's imagination

The bell had to be rung if people came from Swansea with their lorries and cranes to remove the barriers to the fields, and the vicar gave us permission to ring the bell. I believe that the bishop had tried to prevent this, but the vicar was behind us one hundred per cent.

When the bell would ring everyone was to gather together and make an effort to go down with the tools to see what was going on.

The morning of the great confrontation

I remember the morning of the great confrontation, I had put the telephone in so that they could let me know when the men from Swansea arrived, but no-one informed me, I was most disappointed, I heard about it quite soon afterwards.

The significance of the meeting held on 4th February 1964 between representatives of Swansea Corporation and the Defence Committee

We were to persevere until we succeeded, this was important to us, strength is to be found in unity and there was no giving in, and were successful in the end.

I wasn't going to give in and no-one else on the defence committee was going to do so either.

The importance of keeping politics out

There was no politics involved in this at all, and this helped because we did not want to see one union working against another union, and the two unions worked well with each other, Harry Lloyd of the NFU and Emlyn Thomas of the FUW. Keeping politics out meant we had better unity.

Deciding who could face jail

As the head of the family it would have been very difficult for me to go to prison as I had no one else, the children were small at the time and it would have placed too much burden on my wife, therefore it was very important that we were successful.

Lessons for the future

As the moto says, strength is to be found in unity, we must stick together, because this is what brought us success in this battle. It was a long battle, but it was worth it in the end. We should remember the effort, the battle and the success achieved for generations to come.

Brianne

Meurig Voyle, Llanddarog.

County Vice Secretary of the Farmers Union of Wales (FUW) in Carmarthen; in 1966 he moved to the north to take care of Denbighshire, and later Flintshire.

Before I joined the FUW I travelled with a company that sold animal feed from Carmarthen and naturally I would call around farms. I heard that a committee was going to be held in the church hall on Friday evening and subsequently the FUW was holding a public meeting and that is how I came to know about it and within a year I was joining the battle.

Meurig & Arwyn

Llangyndeyrn stood firm from the start

It was clear to me that this was going to be a battle for Llangyndeyrn alone, it was clear that there was going to be a firm stance and that Llangyndeyrn would not be moved; that was visible from the start, naturally there was concern as one could not help being worried.

Collaboration between several bodies

The NFU held a meeting immediately, but I have to say that both farming unions worked together, and then Carmarthen Rural Council stepped in, and later the County too, so things worked on many fronts. Once you'd have any hint of ​​weakness all would be lost, and one of the wonders of the battle of Llangyndeyrn was that they all held together and said 'this is a matter for Llangyndeyrn, and Llangyndern is going to fight it'.
 
The areas's respect towards William Thomas

William Thomas was a District Councillor with extensive experience of being a Councillor and had contacts in several other places, and everyone in the area respected what he said, he was like the king of the area in Llangyndeyrn at the time and everyone listened to him.

 

One good thing was that the Leader and Secretary were very different, and I have to say that WM Rees was a fierce fighter, he was a secretary who gave great attention to detail and kept a keen eye on everything that happened. He also had one great advantage in that he was able to get the media and the papers to be on his side, even from outside Carmarthenshire. This was important as getting publicity was important for us and there were no errors in his publicity, he was very detailed but just as passionate as William Thomas.

One of the most important things that happened was that William Thomas was able to influence on the Carmarthenshire Rural Council to support him one hundred per cent, and as a result they managed to get the consultant engineers Herbert Lapworth and Partners to produce reports for us, and one of the largest reports was the one that showed clearly that going to the Brianne would be better in many ways than drowning Llangyndeyrn. That was important, and unless William Thomas had the support of the Rural Council behind him it would have been very difficult to find the money to pay Herbert Lapworth and Partners.

The Swansea Corporation were strong and therefore you had to be able to stand firmly against them. One of the ways that William Thomas informed things, which shows his influence, was that each one of councillors supported his stance with Llangyndeyrn, that was an extremely important step.

The importance of keeping things non-violent

Another very important step that was agreed on was that there would be no violence, as violence would have resulted in the loss of sympathy of people outside the area, and the vicar, the Reverend Alun Williams made it clear that there was going to be no violence at all.

The Grand Procession in Carmarthen on October 11th, 1963

The atmosphere in the grand procession was electrifying, and the people of Llangyndeyrn had all gone down to support, and what was also important was that people had come down from neighbouring areas, and the town hall in Carmarthen was packed and everyone was serious. You were able to see from the audience that no one was against the march at all, even the onlookers sympathised with us one hundred per cent.

The support of the surrounding areas

Meetings were being held in these areas, a major meeting was held in Pontiets, and one in Porthyrhyd, naturally there was no meeting in Llanddarog as Porthyrhyd was so close. The entire area was supportive, and this was demonstrated on the day of the march, one could see Pontiets and Llanddarog, and Crwbin, and Porthyrhyd, their people were there, showing the support of the areas which surrounded Llangyndeyrn.

It was Councillor Wil Evans who organised the meetings in Pontiets, and Elwyn Jones and Jack Smith organised the procession in Llangyndeyrn.

Additional pressure on the farmers' wives

Most of the farmers' wives had to take on a lot more work so that the men could proceed with the defence work, locking all the gates all around. I applaud the women for the work which they did on top of their usual duties; they were at home and that was so important, because unless the work was being done on the farm the men would not have been able to do the other work.

The importance of getting publicity - the talents of Rev. WM Rees

For me getting the publicity was extremely important, and one of the great talents of the Reverend WM Rees was the ability to attract the attention of newspapers and radio and television outside the area in order to gain more support and recognition. Publicity is important in every aspect but it has to be done correctly without any weaknesses, and the strength of the publicity was one of the key factors in Llangyndeyrn.

The drama of the Great Confrontation

On the day of the great confrontation at the gates of Glanyrynys, WM Rees was informed by a TWW official that Swansea were on their way. He saw Arwyn Richards out on the yard, who immediately on hearing the news began ringing as many people as he could in the area [as WM Rees didn't have a telephone], and arrangements had been made for everyone else to ring each other. Eventually the church bell rang, and a large crowd came to the square.

I came down to Llangyndeyrn and William Thomas told me to go back to the office in case something came through on the phone. I came back in the afternoon, but it was the farmers who were at the gates, not the Union, and that was one thing that made it more important.  I had been in the army during World War II, and I didn't see any better arrangements in the army than those I saw in Llangyndeyrn. William Thomas and WM Rees were like two Field Marshal in my opinion, they knew that they had firm support. Then there were the young people who were present, which was important, because you could feel that their future was at stake, and that made them work so much harder, when you're in that situation, you're going to fight! Then their arrangements were so good, they had even arranged for someone to go on a motorbike around the area [Aldred Thomas], I found it all quite exceptional, very different to the arrangements in Tryweryn in my opinion.

The meeting held on 4th February 1964

There was no danger of giving in at all, if anything it was stronger than he ever. I believe that this was a cunning meeting held by Swansea, having lost at one point they were trying another way, and I felt that they were trying to get them [Llangyndeyrn] to change their mind by saying that they would experiment in both Brianne and Cwm Gwendraeth. But there was no giving in at all, if anything it was the opposite as they held a meeting immediately afterwards to decide that they would reject all of Swansea's proposals!

Llangyndeyrn's Battle

For me this was very important, from start to finish this was a battle for the farmers and villagers of Llangyndeyrn, and this was their strength, as no one could tell them that this was some political matter, no one from the outside was allowed to come in. William Thomas was a good politician, WM Rees was keen member of Plaid Cymru, but there was no mention of bringing anyone in from the outside - but they were willing to accept letters of support and sympathy. From start to finish it was kept as a battle for the farmers and villagers of Llangyndeyrn and the district.

Swansea officials

Glanyrynys

Willingness to go to prison

No one in the area wanted to see these people being sent to prison, but there were young people who were willing to go to prison rather than surrendering.

The impact of winning the battle

If not for the battle, you would have lost the countryside, the farmers and their families would have left, and who would want to live in Llangyndeyrn with the dam so close to the village. I have been there many times after this and the community is as healthy today as it has ever been, and I am delighted to see that the families of those who fought the battle have stayed there. If the battle had been lost the Welsh language would have gone too.

Resilience and facts

To fight any battle you must be resilient and to have your facts right; unless you have this combination of resilience and facts then everything is in vain. Swansea tried every way, they knew that they would meet some resistance. One thinks of them saying 'Swansea has good will for Llangyndeyrn' - they didn't have any good will at all, they wanted to drown Llangyndeyrn.

The importance of remembering

One thing that I think is necessary is that the schools teach the story to the children at least once a year, and also I'd like to see the parents telling their children the story. It needs to be emphasised as it is so important. They talk about remembering Tryweryn, but we need to remember Cwm Gwendraeth too where the fighting was successful.

Why did Llangyndeyrn win the battle, while so many similar battles have been lost in Wales?

The first thing I'd say is that Llangyndeyrn came in early enough, and the second thing was that everything was in unison - think about Tryweryn where ​​Bala Town Committee were in favour of the scheme. This immediately created a weakness, and once you get one weak spot the hole get bigger and bigger, but there were no weaknesses in Llangyndeyrn, the unity was as strong as it could be. The second thing I'd say about Llangyndeyrn is that we could not have had two better leaders, and their names should be forever remembered in the history of Wales as important as anyone - William Thomas and Rev. WM Rees.

The women remembering

The role of the women in the battle has not received enough attention. Some of the women of the village were interviewed regarding the period and a selection of these interviews appear within this chapter

Maureen Thomas, Glanyrynys

Do you remember how you heard about the threat to flood the valley?

I remember it clearly, Dewi reading it out from The Western Mail. It was a huge shock.

This farm was central to the entire battle, were you worried about what could happen to the farm and the village?

Yes, I was terribly worried, because this is our home.

Was it difficult to carry on with everyday life?

Yes, it was difficult but we had to carry on. The animals needed to be fed and milked and everything else that needed to be done on the farm.

What was your role, what were you doing during the entire battle?




Well as Dewi attended so many meetings, someone had to be at home to do the work. It was hard, very hard. We were milking at the time, and rearing calves.

So did you have to do more work?

I had to work more then.

What do you remember about the leaders, your father-in-law was very prominent as one of the leaders, could you say something about him, what kind of man was he?

He was a very determined man, and if he thought he could help someone he would do so as he could.

There was considerable concern as the leaders and people like your husband Dewi were ready to go to jail, giving in was not an option, how did you feel about that?


It was the end of the world.

But there were strong feelings, and they were ready to fight to the end, there was no giving in…

No, there was no giving in.

What do you remember about the morning of the big confrontation at the gates of Glanyrynys?

Hearing the church bell ringing, then we had to go down to the village, we went down in the car to the village and people from everywhere were gathered there. Then we had to go back to Glanyrynys and Dewi could not find the key to the car so he jumped onto the motorbike with Aldred. And I found my way up to the gate. And Dewi was shouting at me to come to join him.

So it was important for Dewi to have you by his side.
Yes, it was important.

Do you remember what happened then when the Swansea people tried to come in?

We stood in the gate, and then the Swansea people talked, and they said 'We'll be back'. But they never came back.

Did it scare you, that experience?
I was terribly afraid.

But you won, they did not come back.

No, they didn't come back.

The battle at the gates of Glanyrynys was very important to the story, but I came in today and the gate was not there. What happened to the gate?

Oh, the gate is still here, and the chain.

So you have kept them over the years?

Yes, we have kept them to remember the great battle
.
And what do you want your grandchildren to remember about the battle?

I want them to remember the battle and pass the story down when they have their own children. It is important that they remember.

Why do you think it's important for them to remember?

I want the children to remember because it is very important for the next generation. It was a big effort.
Do you think that the village has changed at all as a result of the fight to save the valley?

The village is closer after that great fight.

Do you think that people help each other more, because of what they've gone through?
Yes, they help each other.

 

Joan Jones, Ila James, Nina Rees

Hearing about the Threat


Ila: Well I remember the Western Mail being delivered first to Pant-teg and Mrs Williams receiving it and the next thing hearing a loud cry as she called on Hugh to come and see what she had seen on the paper. From then onwards it was awful of course, everyone were worried, the news spread around the village, as soon as one had seen it on the Western Mail everyone had seen it. 

Joan:
It must be Elwyn who told me.

Nina: I saw it on the Western Mail one morning, it was quite a shock to think that they would be coming to the area.

The day of the confrontation in Glanyrynys

Nina: Aldred Thomas came up to the farm [Cadwgan Fawr] to say that they were on their way, and then I came down to the village and stood on the square. The only thing I remember is that everything went quiet when they were coming down the hill to Llangyndeyrn and then away they went. Aldred and Dewi went on the motorbike and then we all went up to the gate at Glanyrynys and there was Maureen and I thought about her and John who was a baby at the time.

Joan: Well I remember coming up here to the square, with my sister's child, he can be seen in some of the photos, and Aldred went on his motorbike and came back and said 'they're on their way, they're on their way', then Jack Smith ran for his life up to the church to ring the bell for everyone to know, and they came [Swansea Corporation] with everyone booing them. We went up to Glanyrynys gate and things were not good there, a large crowd had gathered there.

Ila: Well there was this great fear - to think that they were going to come and that we were going to lose our homes and the village and society and everything would be gone, even the chapels and cemeteries where our families were buried. It was a big worry, no one knew what to think next as we could see that maybe they would succeed, so we were fearful. 

The role of the women in the battle

Nina: The wives supported their husbands.

Joan: There were no women on the committee at all, only men.

Nina: And supporting William Thomas and WM Rees. They had to as William Thomas and WM Rees were away a lot, so their wives had to do a lot of work.

Ila: Well at one time [Mrs Rees] was extremely concerned about Mr Rees taking so much weight on his shoulders and he was saying that he was willing to go to jail, and I think that affected the health of Mrs Rees, and if I remember correctly, she had been in hospital during that time. 

Were you worried about what could happen to the valley, was it difficult to think ahead to the future?

Nina: Well yes, we were worried about what was going to happen, but William Thomas and WM Rees and others were so determined that it was not going to happen that you didn't expect that it was going to happen, we had such good leaders with us. But people were worried about losing their homes, their farms and the cemetery too.
 
Joan: Well where I was living at the time we would have had to leave, the wall would have been in front of us.   Yes, it was difficult [to think ahead to the future].

Ila: We were worried about the future of our children, not knowing what was going to happen to them, maybe the school would close; where they'd go from there, and what was ahead of them, their livelihoods and jobs. These were the things that went through your mind, you'd think ahead about what would happen in the years to come.

The leaders and people who were at the forefront of the battle

Nina: Everyone thought well of them, they had worked extremely hard to save the valley.

Joan: Well we could not have had better leaders than we had, Mr Rees and William Thomas, and the two worked so well together from the beginning, and they agreed with each other.

Ila: The two were completely different to each other, you would not think that they would get along for a moment with each other, but they did; William Thomas would bring his Landrover and Mr Rees would jump in beside him and you never knew where they were going, they eventually arrived at Brianne where they found an alternative site.

The day of the large protest outside the two gates of Glanyrynys - were you worried that things could have gone out of control, did the police presence make you more nervous?

Nina: I did not like it at all, but you felt safe enough, there were enough people on the Llangyndeyrn side compared with the Swansea people and the police, but the people were good, there weren't any fights at all, everything went well. But the Swansea officials were afraid that people were going to set fire to the straw! 

They [the farmers] had brought straw with them in case the ground was wet, and they said 'they're going to put fire to it!' - but no violence happened. But the day afterwards Mair y Groes got married, and more people came to the village to support us. 

Joan: Oh no it was terrible, I did not like it, everything went well but I was nervous.

Some of the local people were willing to go to prison - were you worried about this?

Nina: Yes, you were worried, you are worried about their families, but they were determined people, they would have gone to jail.

Joan: O yes, they would have gone.

Ila: William Thomas would go around the table calling out the names of those who would go to jail. Those who were in poor health would not be able to go. I remember Ifans Torcoed Isaf, he did not have much health, and William Thomas telling him that he would not be allowed to go. But he would go around the table and name those who he thought were good enough to go to prison. 

Nina: Yes Mr Rees and William Thomas would have gone themselves, they were strong and determined enough.

Ila: That was the anxiety that troubled Mrs Rees at the time.

Nina: Yes, that's why she was ill.
             
The impact of winning the battle on the village and district

Joan: There aren't many left of those who were here at the time of the battle.

Ila: Everything went back to its place.

Nina: Everything is in its place, nothing has changed much, everyone is happy that they have kept their homes,

Ila: It was a relief to us that everything was over and that we could live as we wanted to.

Nina: And they put up a memorial stone in 1983, and the school has kept going, the chapel is here, the church is here, everything is the same to us, as a result of the hard work that the people did.

 

Lessons learned

Nina: Never give up and never let anyone above you to believe that they are stronger than you.

What about the children and the future?

Nina: They are celebrating 50 years now and the children who were here 50 years ago remember it clearly. The children of today will remember in 50 years' time so that the memory continues.
Joan: The stone will be there to show.

Ila: Most of the children know the story, even though they are too small to remember anything, they are grateful that we won the battle.

Nina: The children who were about ten years old at the time remember it all.

Ila: Remember, yes - you won't easily forget something like that.

Nina: And the children who are in school now, they'll remember. We are grateful to the young people of today for all that they are doing.

Glenys Davies, Formerly of Alltycadno

What are your earliest memories of the whole story?

There were meetings being held in Alltycadno, and I would go upstairs with the children in order not to disturb them. The cameras were out on the yard and people took photographs, there's a picture of the children in the bedroom window.

I'm sure you're familiar with the words Strength is found in Unity. Did you feel that everyone were united?
Oh yes, we did.

What was Eirwyn telling you at home, was he telling you any stories?

No, not much, but when they began boring Eirwyn was not allowed to stop them.
Why is that?

John Francis was the agent, and he said that he had to leave them alone.

So Eirwyn couldn't do anything?

Nothing, until William Thomas came marching up to the yard one day and said 'We have to go to see John Francis'. I don't remember who was with him, WM Rees maybe? And he said, 'We're going at once, you're going as you are, in your wellingtons, come', and off they went to see John Francis.

They went into the office, and William Thomas told them if they didn't stop things like that, then no one of Llangyndeyrn would bring animals to the mart. Because John Francis had an auctioneer business of course. . . what happened next?

He then conceded to stop them, Swansea. It's a good story and it's true that William Thomas did that.

Did you have to work on the farm while Eirwyn was involved with the battle?


O yes, I had to milk the cows....

And you had young children at the time...

Yes I did.

Do you remember anything about the march in Carmarthen?

No, because the children were small, but I remember the photos.

What photo do you remember most?

The photo of Jack Smith running to ring the bell.

Did you hear the bell ringing?

Yes, and the Bishop was not satisfied, and he said that only on Sundays were they supposed to ring the bell.

We've seen a lot of battles being lost, Tryweryn for example, why do you think that this battle was successful?

Probably because everyone got along with each other, that's what I think.  Everyone did an effort.

Hugh Williams, Pant-teg, Farmer

Huw Panteg

I had the biggest shock of all on the 16th of February 1960, as I recall it was terrible rainy morning, I was in the yard and David Smith brought me the Western Mail. Normally I'd look it over quickly but on this day something drew my attention on the front page and there it was in big black letters: 'Welsh Valley Faces Death by Drowning'. What a horrible title, and I thought at the time who were these poor people who were going to lose their homes because Tryweryn had just been drowned, but as I read on I could not believe my eyes. Swansea Corporation and West Glamorgan Authority were looking for water and one of the plans they favoured was to drown Cwm Gwendraeth Fach. I could not believe it, that was the first time that I ever heard about it, to think that the people of Swansea were going to come here to drown us, it was unthinkable.

As I thought about it I could see that Pant-teg was in the thick of it, as we are at the bottom of the valley here. The house and outbuildings and about 80 acres of the best land would probably be drowned, our livelihood as family would be gone, my future as a farmer in Pant-teg would be gone, and five generations of hard work would be underwater. They shan't take this from me without a fight I thought, but then how were we going to fight such a big power, it would truly be battle of David and Goliath. They had just lost Tryweryn so we had no chance against such a thing. I was thinking about all our neighbours up the valley, what was in the mind of these surveyors to shatter livelihoods and destroy close-knit Welsh communities.

It was a shock at the time, then I felt angry, I didn't do much work that day nor for many days afterwards, it was so unexpected and we just did not know what was going on. We talked about it with our neighbours but did not hear anything official.

It was clear that we had to fight it and it was decided to form a Defence Committee and William Thomas was elected as chairman, he has been representing us on the council for about 40 years and so had a lot of influence there, and he also owned Glanyrynys farm where his son Dewi was farming, so it was fitting that he was chairman.

Then we had the Reverend WM Rees as secretary, he was a minister with us at Bethel Chapel in the village and he and his family lived in the village and were highly regarded so both suited each other perfectly even though they were totally different in character. William Thomas enjoyed life with his cigar and an occasional glass of whiskey, but not excessively, while WM Rees was a teetotaller. I was a member with him in the chapel and few Sundays would pass when we would not hear about the alcoholic drink, and if I had been out on a Saturday night I would not dare look up to the pulpit as I knew that Mr Rees was looking down on us and making me feel guilty! Both of them were determined they were not going to give in, there was no hesitation, this fight was to go on to end and there would be no turning back. We could never have found better leaders if we'd search the whole county, they were both extremely effective. There was no good in saying that we would be willing to sell or make money from it at all, we had to fight it to the end.

'Mewn Undod Mae Nerth' - Strength in Unity

I heard no one complain, everyone was unanimous that they were going to fight to the end, I think that was the secret of it all in that we stuck together. We would have lost but for that, and I think that is why Tryweryn lost their battle, we stayed together as one and did not bring any kind of politics into it.

Lady Megan was our MP at the time and she did her best, but at that time she belonged to the opposition and therefore her influence was limited, but she wrote to Sir Keith Joseph to try to influence him.

The Quiet but Anxious Period of 1960-1963

I would say that this was a very difficult time, you were not able to think of doing anything or plan anything for the future as we didn't know if out land would be drowned, for us farmers it was certainly a very difficult period.

William Thomas's influence in ensuring the support of the Rural Council

This is where William Thomas's influence came in, he was very influential on the Council, and of course they commissioned Herbert Lapworth and Partners to investigate the county, and I think a lot of that was due to his influence. Herbert Lapworth and Partners were independent surveyors and they searched the county for a better position, which was the main reason why we were fighting as we were convinced that there was a better site somewhere in Carmarthenshire. Of course one important aspect of the scheme was that the water to fill the reservoir could not be provided by the Gwendraeth Fach river as it is too small a river.

What made the scheme such a bad one was that they would have had to pump the water in from the river Tywi in Nantgaredig and merely use our valley as a kind of storage tank to send water to Swansea. If the water was to be found with us here and not anywhere else, naturally we would have had no hope of opposing the scheme, as water is essential for people and industries, but we were almost sure that another and better site could be found. In fact some members of the Defence Committee has been up in Rhandirmwyn and had seen a perfect site there, but Swansea Council officials refused to listen, they wanted to drown Cwm Gwendraeth Fach. That's what ultimately finished the plan, in the end we managed to defeat the plan by using facts, the surveyors provided us with facts to enable us to prove that the scheme up in Rhandirmwyn was a cheaper and better scheme with sufficient room for expansion if required. After his retirement Lillicrap admitted on television that the scheme to drown Cwm Gwendraeth Fach would not have been sufficient and that he was glad that we had sent him up to Rhandirmwyn.

Public Inquiry - June 26, 1963
 

I remember it well, I thought that the meeting had gone quite well for us, as the Swansea Corporation officials didn't have any figures or anything to fight their case, and we thought that we had done very well that day, but we were in for a shock. We waited for a month before being informed of the outcome of the investigation, and when it finally came it was a huge disappointment to hear that Sir Keith Joseph has granted permission to West Glamorgan to enter the land [to check its suitability for the scheme].

But there was no question of surrendering, in fact it made us even more determined, and I set about putting chains on the gates. We had a big old threshing engine at Pant-teg and we placed it inside one gate, no-one would manage to move that one out of the way. We placed the heaviest implements we had on our farms tight inside the gates.

Dewi Glanyrynys

 

The Government's threat to the village

They were determined to have their way, and Sir Keith Joseph threatened us and told us 'Llangyndeirne - if you don't obey the law, we shall bring in the troops'. Well that was disgraceful, to think that the man responsible for Welsh matters was threatening us like that, I thought to myself we have to stand up to this guy, it made us even more determined.

 

Sir Kieth Joseph

No surrender - but no violence!

On the day of the great battle [outside Glanyrynys] I think we were fortunate to have the police there or maybe things could have gone out of hand, they kept us separate as they were in the middle between us. Up in Tryweryn people had attempted to bomb transformers and make a lot of misery. I don't think that did any good to their cause as people turned against them as soon as they saw such things happening, but we stuck together. We didn't bring anyone in from the outside, it was the local people – farmers and residents of the village – who fought this battle. But we were determined enough, surrender was not an option, even though we had lost everything. We had lost the Public Inquiry as Sir Keith Joseph had gone against us there, which meant that Swansea Corporation now had permission to enter our land, but when they came we refused to let them in. The next step was to take us to court, and we lost that case too.

Strong support from the surrounding area

The councillors for Porthyrhyd and Llanddarog were all supportive of our cause, and it was the same in Pontiets where they were big Labour supporters but they were all on our side and would attend our meetings.

 

The Procession in Carmarthen

A large crowd of people had gathered in the market and some had come from outside of Llangyndeyrn to show their support. I remember marching down Mansell Street and Lammas Street and up to the Guildhall, no-one showed any opposition to us and I'm sure that we had the support of everyone present.

Mr WM Rees and his ability to exploit the media

Mr Rees was very good in dealing with the media, whenever something was happening we would inform the television and media and they would come over to film the event. This was very important as gaining enough publicity was immensely helpful to us.

The women and their all-important role

The women were as much a part of the battle as we were although they weren't in the limelight. Lots of people would call at our farm during that period and Mam would have to invite them in and serve them tea, as would happen in the other farms.

The morning of the big confrontation outside Glanyrynys

I remember this well, we were very fortunate to have a 'spy in the camp' to warn us in advance, otherwise they would have caught us by surprise. They were ready for us and had had the morning to prepare, and I must say that I felt rather fearful when I saw the convoy coming down Llangyndeyrn hill that morning as I didn't know how things would turn out. I knew that this day would be crucial, for if we failed here everything we had done over the previous months would be in vain.

Fortunately every one of us was determined that they would not come into our land under any conditions. Mind you they had the shock of their life when they saw the crowd gathered on the village square and to see so many people ready for them; they didn't expect that anyone would be there. When they arrived at the square we weren't sure which way they would go, they could have gone to Pant-teg, we kept an eye on Pant-teg, but of course they went to Glanyrynys. Dewi [Thomas], who farmed at Glanyrynys, was very fortunate to have a ride with Aldred on his motorbike, and together they overtook they convoy on those narrow roads and arrived in Glanyrynys ahead of them.

 

I must say that I greatly admire Dewi that morning as the first thing Lillicrap did was to show him the warrant that gave him the right to enter the land as the law was behind him, and it took a brave man to stand up to the law as Dewi did and say 'no, you're not coming in'. Then all the crowd arrived and you felt a bit more confident, they were behind us and this gave us plenty of confidence to stand up to them. A tractor arrived with bales of straw and the Swansea officials thought we were going to set the straw on fire! – but the straw was intended for the mothers and children to lay down on to prevent the Swansea officials from entering through the gap.

Keeping the battle local and peaceful 

It was important that we kept it local as we didn't want any politics to come into it, for we had seen that this had been a failure in the case of Tryweryn. We kept it local so that the only people who fought this were the villagers and the local farmers; they were fighting for their homes and livelihoods therefore they had a cause to fight for. There were no outsiders coming in because they just wanted the publicity, the men who fought were those who were feeling the pinch themselves.

Prepared to go to prison
 

We lost the court case, we were represented by Dewi Griffiths, a local lawyer from Carmarthen, but we didn't have a chance. Losing this case of course meant that Swansea Corporation were now entitled by law to enter our land without asking and anyone who stood up to them could be sent to prison. We now considered the situation to be serious; we had to plan to go to prison.

I remember the meeting we held to choose who would go to prison and who would be exempt; in my case I agreed to go as I was young then and my father was to stay at home at Pant-teg to farm the land. This was the same at the other farms; someone who farmed the land on his own was not allowed to go to prison, but where a father and son farmed together then one of them had to go. As it happened I wasn't married at the time therefore I didn't have a family to think of. It would have been a big decision to make if I had a family to care for, but as I was single at the time I made the decision quite easily. I had so much to lose; if I were to lose my home I would lose everything and my future would be gone, therefore I had good reason to stand up for myself.

Keeping the story alive today
 

I have been pleasantly surprised during the past year, to tell you the truth I thought that everyone had forgotten about it as there aren't many of us left now who were in the battle. It has been wonderful seeing the young people of the area having risen up and wanting to know the story. It's a great encouragement for us who were fighting back then, and I think that this unity has stayed in the parish, as everything we are now doing to commemorate the events are being very well supported.

Lessons for the future

The words inscribed on the stone in the village square, Mewn Undod Mae Nerth (In Unity there is Strength), is of the utmost importance, and in something like this everyone has to pull together. It's no good having any weak spot; everyone must work together and show that we mean business and that we will fight to the end. As someone said, bad laws deserve to be broken; in this case a close-knit Welsh-speaking community would have been destroyed and good agricultural land would have been drowned where there were other sites to be found in the county which would not entail any loss. There wasn't any sense in that those Swansea Corporation surveyors merely chose somewhere and said they would drown it without considering searching for somewhere else. If you think that you are in the right – it's worth standing up against the law and fight your case with facts and figures.

In having those surveyors down from London, Carmarthenshire Rural Council proved to Swansea Corporation through facts and figures that the Brianne site above Rhandirmwyn was the best site. They could never argue against that one – that was the final blow to prevent Swansea from coming in.

Regarding similar battles that were unsuccessful, I only know about Tryweryn, they say that most of the farms in Tryweryn belonged to an estate therefore the tenants had very little say in the matter. One thing that they did which we didn't was to bring a lot of politics into it. Another element is that they were too late in fighting the battle, you had to stop this at the first opportunity as once you let them have one foot in, it will be twice as hard to stop the other foot. From the outset we said that we would not allow them into our lands to do anything, even if we thought the land wasn't good enough it was no use giving them one foothold. In Tryweryn they let things go too far, it was no use fighting when they were building the dam. This is where they lost in my opinion, they began the fight too late.

Gratitude

I have only great gratitude for those who fought during that period. Through their efforts I have had 50 happy years farming in the valley, looking after a small part of it, and I have been able to hand this over to my son, therefore I have so much to thank them for. My livelihood was dependent upon them and that is something I will never forget.


Mewn Undod mae Nerth

Reasons for Celebration

Some of the members of the 2013 Celebration Committee were asked what the 1963 victory means to them and the people of Llangyndeyrn today.

Ian Jones

Ian Jones I was brought up in Llangyndeyrn from 1973 onwards, and last year I moved into a house I built in the village, to start a family with my partner Mari and our little daughter Gwenllian. We are expecting another baby in April.

I attended Llangyndeyrn primary school, and at the time of the 1983 celebrations I appeared on the Programme Y Byd ar Bedwar, being interviewed alongside other children from school, at the village park [playing field].

My father (Peter Jones) was chairman of the welfare committee in 1983 and was one of the group of people who were responsible for the erection of the memorial stone on the square. My mother hailed from the farm called 'y Wern' and there are photographs of my grandfather (Vincent Morgan) locking the gates to the Wern lands back in 1963.

My grandmother from my father's side now lives at Bro Dawel, where the Reverend W. M. Rees used to live.

I am by now a member of the Celebrations' Committee, and responsible for organizing the bike ride from Tryweryn to Llangyndeyrn in June.

The battle itself is symbolic as it happened at an important period of time in the history of Wales when this country had to stand up to  corporations that took advantage of our people and our land.

As a local boy, it means that my children have the same opportunity to enjoy the same completely happy childhood that I experienced in the village.

One morning, soon after moving back to the village in the summer of 2012, I was out on my bike, cycling along the quarry road at Crwbin. From there I could see the valley below, but this particular morning it was shrouded in mist, and resembled a lake. The scene made me shudder at the thought of the calamity that might have happened, to lose that fruitful and populous land; there was no sense to it at all...

I recalled the fun I had as a child, playing on the farmyard at Ynys Fas, and going down to fish and hunt with Dad and Mark at the riverside below Torcoed Isaf.

I thought of the time Alun Pant-teg and I would spend together, playing football and rugby and cricket in the farmyard at Pant-teg, before going out to the fields behind Ynys Fas to help with the haymaking with Teifion the farmhand.

I remembered the time of the great snow in 1983, and Dad and Mark going down to John and Carol Walker's shop in the village to fetch some supplies to take up to Wern, and my mother not letting Shelley and myself go because we were too small.

I remembered climbing trees up at the spinney at Cwm Coegen with Dafydd and Manon from the Vicarage, and building a camp every holiday to try and impress Manon!

I smiled to myself as I recalled walking up to school every day through the park and up the hill, before raising a thumb to Delme Pen-plwyf as he let Gavin and Gail out of the minivan before making a handbrake turn in the little field behind the yard!

I laughed as I remembered that time when we as children took a walk through the churchyard with Wyn 'Trevor' Evans, and a bird from the tree above did its business all over Wyn!

I remembered dressing up as a girl for the fancy dress pram race on New Year's Day, and everybody reminiscing and having fun and games back at the Farmers after the great race, scarcely able to believe that 'H' had completed the course and crossed the river twice in the pram with me!

I chuckled as I recalled the fun we had playing cricket for the village team with Mal from the Vicarage organizing; Ffred Wigley, Brisbane (where my father used to live) keeping the score, and Rob from the Smiths as captain.
There was such an overflowing of sweet memories...

And now, I enjoy walking through the village with Mari, and the little 'bump', and Gwenllian in her colourful new trike, smiling excitedly as we make our way to the playing-field.

I love having a pint in the company of Chris Smith, Gwyds, Bren, Mark, and Dai Griff at the Farmers on a Thursday evening, and listening to Dai (from the Banc!) speaking of the village as though it were paradise on earth.

If the battle hadn't happened, perhaps I wouldn't be here. Perhaps my parents wouldn't have met. None of the above would have happened; there wouldn't have been a community. The battle was all-important, for us to hold on to our land here in Wales.

John Thomas

John Thomas

What is your link with Llangyndeyrn?

I was born and brought up in Llangyndeyrn, as it happens, in July 1963 to Dewi and Maureen Thomas of Glanyrynys. My parents were very much part of the battle to save Cwm Gwendraeth Fach and Llangyndeyrn, with my father being a prominent member of the Defence Committee, and my mother working very hard to keep on top of the farm work and looking after two young boys, while my father was involved with the Defence Committee (DC). Being elected as Co-Chairman, alongside my brother David, of the Pwyllgor Dathlu is a great honour and privilege, especially so as the Chairman of the Defence Committee in the 1960's was the late Mr William Thomas, my grandfather. I still live and work in Llangyndeyrn, farming Glanyrynys and residing at Y Berllan with my wife Ann and daughter Leia.

My family was heavily involved during the protracted battle to save Llangyndeyrn and Cwm Gwendraeth Fach, with my grandfather Mr William Thomas as Chairman of the DC, and my father Mr Dewi Thomas of Glanyrynys, and my father-in law Mr Arwyn Richards of Y Llandre prominent members of the DC. I was brought up at Glanyrynys listening to my father recounting tales of what happened during those very trying times in the early 60's. Most of these stories were told with great pride and affection; some were tinged with sadness, some with humour, but all were told with humility. The battle of Llangyndeyrn was not about individuals, even though there were, no doubt, some very important individuals, it was always emphasised that it was the whole community, farmers and villagers, in unison. They quite literally stood shoulder to shoulder, young and old, strong and infirm to withstand the grave threat to their homes, their livelihoods, and their way of life.

We have heard of the importance of various aspects of how our forefathers organised their defence and their strategies, but to me it was this unity within the community that defies belief. They believed in their leaders - Mr William Thomas and the Reverend W. M. Rees, and stood firmly behind them in their decisions. The fact that Swansea Corporation never set foot on any land in this beautiful valley, bears testimony to the determination and tenacity of everyone involved. Not only did they fight the long, hard fight, but they fought shrewdly; they punched way above their weight.

What does the battle of Llangyndeyrn mean to you?

 I have great pride, great admiration, and great respect for what was achieved. I live in Llangyndeyrn, I'm raising my family in Llangyndeyrn, Leia my daughter goes to school in Llangyndeyrn, I'm farming at Glanyrynys. I cannot see myself living anywhere but Llangyndeyrn. There is a strong and vibrant Welsh speaking community in Llangyndeyrn; were it not for the actions of our determined forefathers, we would not be here today.

Why is the story important today?

I firmly believe in the saying "learn from history". If we cannot learn from this little lesson in history, then we deserve what we get! To remember what happened fifty years ago on our doorstep is hugely important, not just to us in the locality, but to Wales as a nation. If you firmly believe in what you are defending and you have a valid, reasoned argument, then you must fight, whatever the odds against you. These are the lessons to be learnt from the battle, to be remembered, and for us to remind others and the younger generations to come.
This was a battle won. As a nation we tend to remember the battles lost, Tryweryn for example, but Llangyndeyrn won the day. What we have to remember though is how did they win, and why? To remind our younger generations of what was achieved, to keep fighting when all seems lost, to never give in. Be better organised, be better prepared, be shrewder.

Robert Thomas


I was born and bred in Llangyndeyrn, and after working and living away for some years I came back to live in the village. I am now married and have my own family to bring up here in Llangyndeyrn. I was born in September 1963, a month before the climax of the battle to save Llangyndeyrn from being drowned happened, which was October 1963.

Rob Thomas

 

My grandfather was Councillor William Thomas who, with the Reverend W. M. Rees, was one of the leaders of Llangyndeyrn Defence Committee (my grandfather being Chairman).


The battle means a great deal to me, personally. My mother was Glenys Thomas, the daughter of William Thomas, and the efforts of her father, my grandfather, has been a matter of great pride in our family. Llangyndeyrn continues to be a very close-knit village with everybody acquainted with one another, and looking out for one another at a time of crisis. The village still retains its Welsh character even though the English language is a threat, and in my opinion the battle was important to preserve the way of life in our locality.

It's important to remember the effect that the plan to build a dam would have had on the residents of the village back in the early sixties. The plan would have threatened homes, livelihoods and the entire community. The bravery and determination of the community to save the valley was inspiring, and their victory against such a powerful adversary was exceptional, and therefore it's all the more important to commemorate and celebrate.

The sixties saw the beginning of an awakening of national identity in Wales, and I would like to think that the battle to save Cwm Gwendraeth Fach played a role in this nationalism.

In Wales we tend to remember our losses, but the victory won in this battle is extremely important and a cause which is well worth commemorating.

It's important too that the children here in Llangyndeyrn and the neighbouring localities understand the importance of this chapter in the history of Wales, and are made aware of the efforts their forefathers made.

Tyssul Evans

What is your connection with Llangyndeyrn?

I have been a Councillor for Llangyndeyrn Community Council since 1987, and also a County Councillor for the Llangyndeyrn Community on Carmarthenshire County Council since 1999 It is a privilege and an honour to be able to represent the area on both Councils. I truly hope that I will be able to continue to do so for the coming years.

Tyssul Evans

What does the Battle of Llangyndeyrn mean to you?


I was in my early teens during the great battle at the beginning of the 1960s. Even though, I clearly remember hearing and reading about the fight in the media and local and national press.

I remember the sacrifice that the local residents made to protect their homes and livelihood. And I remember my father talking many times about the support received from people in the neighbouring villages and rural communities. I also remember the sense of relief and pride felt by the local residents and farther afield across Wales when the news came that the battle had been won.

At the time I hardly thought that many years later I would have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the local and county elected members who fought so hard for the area during that period.

Pontiets

 Why is it important that we continue to remember the story?

In contrast to the majority of remembrance events held here in Wales and over the world, here in Llangyndeyrn the villagers and residents of a wide area will later this year be celebrating a battle that was won by the ordinary people against the power of the Corporation and British Government. Most of the times we remember battles and lives that were lost but here is one of the rare examples when the opposite is true.

Following the fight and the sacrifice our forefathers made, it is our duty to celebrate, and at the same time pay tribute and express our gratitude to those dear people for the bravery and tenacity that they showed. Without their sacrifice the village and the local area would not be here today.

An important part of our nation's history was created in 1963 and with important celebrations such as this one being held this year, generations of young people all over Wales and beyond will hear the personal stories and an account of the Great Battle. The brave will never be forgotten.

2013 Celebration Committee

What Does The Story Mean To Those Who Were Involved In The 2012-13 Celebrations? Here Are Some Responses:

Carrie Rees

What is your connection with Llangyndeyrn?

As someone who is originally from Pontantwn, the Llangyndeyrn area and its history are very important to me.  I am also a member of Llangyndeyrn Community Council.

What does the Battle of Llangyndeyrn mean to you?

I'm glad that the villagers fought for Llangyndeyrn.  We should remember the campaign with pride.  It is very important that people take an interest in their area and do their best to ensure the future of their communities.  We should look at the story and learn important lessons from the battle. 

Why is it important that we continue to remember the story?

So much energy and effort went into the fight, it is important that we remember the story and ensure that the children of the area are also aware of what happened.  

The story of Llangyndeyrn gives a clear message to the people, that they should fight to protect their community.  It is important to teach them that it's good to stand up for what is right.  

Karen Jones

What is your connection with Llangyndeyrn?

I have lived in Llangyndeyrn for 26 years.

What does the Battle of Llangyndeyrn mean to you?

Although I was not born in Cwm Gwendraeth Fach, I have always been aware of the battle.  I was born in Ponthenri and raised in Pontyberem so on Saturdays I would come through Llangyndeyrn on my way to town.  My aunt was a very good storyteller and I enjoyed hearing the story of the local community fighting against Swansea corporation and winning.  This story was being told over and over without ever becoming boring. The romance of the story would take hold of my imagination and for a small child it was a very real legend as the location was so close.

Years later I married a man who had lived in the village all his life and I settled in the village.  Our children have had the privilege of growing up in a perfect location, in a close-knit and historic community. This opportunity would have been lost if the community had not fought and won in the 1960s.

Why is it important that we continue to remember the story?

The history of our ancestors has an influence on our future.  The battle and success is something special as so many other communities have failed.  The residents of Llangyndeyrn were willing to sacrifice a lot including their own freedom to protect their community.  It is important that we pay tribute to them and it is important to Welsh history that we celebrate the success of this community in protecting their way of life and their future.  This is also an opportunity to bring the community of Llangyndeyrn in 2013 closer.   

Diana Thomas-Laidlaw

What is your connection with Llangyndeyrn?

I was brought up in the village of Llangyndeyrn, and I attended the primary school in the village. My grandfather was Councillor William Thomas. I lived in Llannon for seventeen years, and then returned to live in the pretty village of Llangyndeyrn in 2008. I have always considered Llangyndeyrn to be my home - my "roots" are here.

What does the Battle of Llangyndeyrn mean to you?

Obviously the contribution of my grandfather and my uncle - William and Dewi Thomas - in the campaign makes the fight part of my family history. 

I feel that the fight was a campaign for justice, because after all Cwm Gwendraeth Fach was an unsuitable location for a reservoir - because homes would have been lost, livelihoods would have been destroyed, and the community which a stronghold of the Welsh language would have been torn apart. As stated on the memorial "Strength is found in Unity", and we should take pride in the fact that the society acted in unity, ensuring success in the end. 
 
Why is it important that we continue to remember the story?

History is the memory of a nation, and I believe that the battle of Llangyndeyrn is an important event in the nation's history. It is important that we celebrate the success that was achieved, because after all in those days successful opposition to a Government organisation was unusual (as demonstrated when Tryweryn was drowned in 1965.) By celebrating the fiftieth anniversary, we are raising awareness throughout all Wales of a heroic event in the history of our country. It's a shame that we as a country are too ready to focus on the failures.

In addition, as a historian, I feel that the success Llangyndeyrn achieved in 1963 shows that the spirit of Rebecca was still alive in Cwm Gwendraeth Fach, because many of the local people fought against the injustice of toll roads, contributing to the success of the Rebecca Riots - back at the end of the 1830s and early 1840s. During that time social conditions improved after people fought injustice.

 

A Reporter's Recollections

Sulwyn Thomas

The journalist and broadcaster Sulwyn Thomas, who is a member of the 2013 Celebration Committee, was interviewed regarding his memories of the period.

I was young, I had just started as a reporter for the South Wales Evening Post, and one should remember that the Evening Post had its headquarters in Swansea at the time as it does today, but there were also offices in Carmarthen and Llanelli. It was an exciting time indeed. Think of the three at Tryweryn, Emyr Llew who came to the court here in Carmarthen and who was imprisoned for a year - they were tumultuous times, with Cymdeithas yr Iaith [Welsh Language Society] and so on. I was not a reporter in 1955, but that was the year when the Farmers' Union of Wales has split from the NFU so there was great excitement in this area already, but when the news suddenly came that Swansea, a neighbour to Carmarthenshire to all intents and purposes, were looking for water and were maybe going to drown Cwm Gwendraeth Fach, well it was a big story for the paper, and a big story for readers in West Wales so we had to be fairly alert. David Roberts was doing most of the work but I had a few opportunities to listen to William Thomas thundering in the committees, and everyone were probably thinking at the time that I was some kind of spy because I represented The Evening Post, but I was far from being a spy because I was an admirer.

 I admired the way things were happening, maybe that William Thomas would slam the table and so on, he was a fiery man but there was also a quiet man who was maybe more cautious, namely the Rev. William Rees, and I remember seeing some kind of incompatible marriage here. It was amazing how these two could work together. It was a romantic story, it was an exciting story, the battle had just been lost in Tryweryn, but you felt that these men were not going to give in. In fact people were afraid that things could have turned sour, but there were plenty of cautious and prudent people, I could see that from what I heard being said in committees, and William Rees said that they must be cautious. I was also attending the Carmarthen Rural Council meetings where Councillor William Thomas reigned there too, and one sensed that there was something happening in the background and the idea came regarding Llyn Brianne.

I was not in Llangyndeyrn on that fateful day in October 1963 as David Roberts was there as the main reporter, but I got to know all about it at the time. So we were all anxious for a long time, not only the people of Llangyndeyrn but also journalists, people from outside, probably the police and everyone else. Everyone wondered what was going on and the battle dragged on for some time, and suddenly we heard from somewhere that the fight was over and that nothing further was going to happen. This was strange in itself, in that there wasn't some grand announcement.

 

Collaboration between the two agricultural unions

I can not forget the fact that I knew that there was great hostility between people who had left the NFU and people who had stayed with the NFU. This had undoubtedly caused a rift in the agricultural society where some people wanted a voice for Wales and for Welsh farmers to stand on their own two feet and not be tied to England. Maybe that this is not as obvious today, but at the time it was fierce and one of the things I will never forget was to see Mr Harry Lloyd and Mr Emlyn Thomas on the same platform working together. That showed how united the people were, that they could forget about this rift in the middle of something which was going to destroy an entire rural society in this area.

Was the unity strong?

The children, the school, the women, the society, the church, the chapels were all behind the fight - I think that Strength is found in Unity is the best slogan you could have had. If the surveyors had gone onto the grounds in Glanyrynys maybe they would have said there was no point for them to carry on, some people now argue this is what would have happened and that the scheme would not have gone through. But you never know, and the major step was that they were not allowed to go into the land to find out.

William Thomas and WM Rees

The impression I had was that William Thomas was full of fire and ready for the fight, but that William Rees was more cautious maybe. He was the one who reasoned and who wrote the letters, he was the one who was able to relate to people in Westminster. But the fire was coming from the top of the Chairman. You must have your William Thomas and William Rees to be successful. They did not agree on many things, but one thing was common by both in that they were against the plan and that the valley must be protected. In the same manner as the NFU and FUW, they laid their differences to one side over this long period of struggle. And it must be remembered that Wales was about to explode [with protests held by the Welsh Language Society etc.], someone had to say listen, we must abide by non-violent means. But the people from outside Llangyndeyrn had to see that there were responsible people here, I think that's why you had so much sympathy.

Press and TV coverage

This was extremely important, I believe that it's images that make a story. The image of Jack Smith the bellringer ringing the bell was priceless. The press does not think very deep - they want stories with a little bit of excitement and colour, they did not delve deep into the reasons of the Defence Committee and the reasons of the Swansea Corporation.

What they did was to hit on the fact that there was a bellringer who would warn when the enemy was coming, as in the old days. At the time this was a very strong symbol, and with the locking of the gates and tractors being placed across the entrances, it gave out a very strong message which said 'No' - we will not allow them to come in here. But, apart from that, William Rees and the Defence Committee would feed us with information. And there were people in Swansea who informed the Defence Committee of what was happening. It was natural that the Western Mail, the Evening Post andthe Carmarthen Journal paid attention to the battle, but it received wider coverage, I remember John Christopher and some PA people from London coming down, when London paid attention to Welsh issues, which doesn't happen today. This in itself meant that there was something in the story, something was going on, and the fear was there all the time. There's nothing worse than waiting for ten hours somewhere waiting for something to happen and then deciding to go home, only to miss something happening in the next half hour! It was the same here, everyone felt this tension, and people wanted to know what was going on because they could lose the story, we only needed half a word and we would be there.  They also knew how to keep things simmering with the press, and this was a strange story. It must have been a major story, because Fyfe Robinson came down to have that immortal story with the Rev. Bryn Jones. Therefore people saw this as an exciting story and that was part of the appeal.

Maybe that this is also part of the reason why Swansea dropped the idea, they were afraid of what would happen - nobody wants to be unpopular.

As the fight progressed in 1963 the farmers of Llangyndeyrn were losing almost every effort - they lost in the Local Inquiry, in the Magistrates Court in Carmarthen - as an outsider did you feel that there was any risk that the farmers and residents of Llangyndeyrn would give in and allow access to the Swansea men?

I did not, though I was arm's length of the events, I did not get that impression - if anything, one was afraid that things could get worse as they had been rejected in the court and in the tribunal and so on, but it did not come to that. There was disappointment, but the people held fast and still felt that they were right. Giving up did not come into the scenario at all. And also it was very important that they had another plan, once they had managed to persuade Swansea that it would be at least cheaper for them to go up to Brianne and that only one or two farms would be lost there, it was a matter of damage limitation then.

Llangyndeyrn and Cwm Gwendraeth Fach today

Overall I still have this romantic and perhaps completely misguided idea that the valley has retained its Welshness.

If the battle has been lost the community would have been destroyed and the Welsh language would have dwindled as people would have had to move away and the area would not have retained its Welshness. In general when thinking about Llanddarog, Porthyrhyd, Llangyndeyrn, Cwmisfael - I still feel that this is an area where the Welsh language still reigns, and this can be seen in the people I meet when I visit the area. 

Heroic Battle

I still think that it was a brave and heroic struggle. I was criticized when I presented a TV program a few years ago on the history of the Farmers Union of Wales and I had referred to the 'heroic' battle of the people of Llangyndeyrn. One person said that the word was not appropriate - but for me the courage the people of Llangyndeyrn showed at that time was absolutely heroic, because they were willing to go to prison, they were willing to suffer because they were not going to allow this. Someone asked me the other day why Tryweryn has received so much attention when Llangyndeyrn has had so little. I do not think Llangyndeyrn has not had any attention - but the story has not received half the attention that been given to Tryweryn. 

For me there are two factors in this - in Wales we love to remember people who have lost battles rather than people who have won. Secondly, the threat came from a Welsh corporation and authority which bordered Carmarthenshire, therefore this was not a battle between us and the English but rather Welshmen against Welshmen - I think maybe this has led some people to think that it wasn't a proper battle. The reality was different, as at the time it was quite fierce!  Maybe that people do not see it in the big picture of the heroic people who deserve a place in history but rather as a small local battle, but it was more than that. It's hard to explain, but for me Llangyndeyrn was our Tryweryn, a local story that grew into a national story. It would be a tragedy if people of Llangyndeyrn forgot the battle. This is something that could be very important this year with the celebration and remembrance, that people who come to live in the area come to know how much the people of the area had to sacrifice to save the valley.

 

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Tywi Centre RDP Sir Gar NRW Carmarthenshire County Council National Trust EU Welsh Government